Befuddled by the Farm Bill

As new policies and procedures from the 2014 Farm Bill are implemented, farmers across Ohio and the
country are going to be facing some difficult decisions.
That was the message delivered Friday afternoon at a forum held on the Bowling Green State University
campus. The panel included both state and national agricultural leaders.
While the Farm Bill passed earlier this year, the implementation is an ongoing process according to
Jonathan McCracken, the legislative agriculture assistant in Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office (D-Ohio).
As he was part of the formulation of the bill, he shared some of the good things as well as the bad in
the bill.
McCracken said it was good that the five-year bill will save taxpayers $23 billion. He said the tougher
part is the implementation.
"The real focus is on how we protect the family farmers," McCracken said.
Joe Logan, president of the Ohio Farmers Union, which sponsored the event, said there were many conflicts
and compromises in drafting the bill Logan called a "complex instrument."
Joe Shultz, the chief economist for the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry,
echoed the comments saying, "This was not an easy process."
Shultz added it was difficult to cut billions from the budget causing difficult policy decisions for the
country and from a political perspective.
However, he called the 2014 bill, "Something to be proud of."
One of the biggest changes for growers is the elimination of the fixed payments. Shultz said that has
been replaced by a safety net available through both individual crop insurance plans as well as federal
disaster relief programs.
The policy maker went through a litany of programs available to farmers, most known through their
alphabetic soup of acronyms. He detailed how the $23 billion saved was accounted for despite adding $5
billion added to crop insurance packages. The biggest savings came from the elimination of the commodity
programs and direct payments.
"Farmers have a lot more choices, but there are good options. You can tailor a program for your
needs and what makes the most sense for your operation," Shultz detailed.
He explained that growers can choose different programs farm by farm and even crop by crop.
"We wanted producers to have flexibility and better control," the economist stated.
He shared there are going to be significant shifts in the types of policies with more details on the
specifics coming out this fall.
Carl Zulauf, a professor with Ohio State University Department of Agricultural, Environmental and
Development Economics, shared more of the specifics, which left many veteran farmers with more questions
than answers.
Zulauf outlined many things for them to consider including long-term forecasts of prices and yields. He
noted the newly enacted Farm Bill has "two pillars – commodity programs and crop insurance."

He suggested those attending not rush their decision, think about payment limits and gather information.

"There is no cookie-cutter solutions. You really need to think about it as this will not be an easy
decision," the professor shared of the type of program enrollment each farmer will choose for their
He even suggested consulting with an attorney.
"We really don’t know how farmers are going to use this," he admitted.
Terry Cosby, a state conservationist with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources
Conservation Service touted some his departments program including changes made in easements.
"We have combined programs and simplified the process," Cosby said.
Because farmers will have to document more information, Cosby said the implementation of the programs
will bring more people into the Farm Service Agency’s offices.
Logan’s brother, Tony Logan the state director for the USDA Rural Development added more information
focusing on many of the programs and areas the new farm bill will focus on. Much of that involves
biotechnology and alternative fuels.
He said that USDA secretary Tom Vilsack galled the Farm Bill the "Swiss Army knife of
agriculture" due to its multi-layered and variety of programs and services contained within.
Tony Logan noted as an example is the military’s interest in biofuels. He detailed a U.S. Navy plan for
aviation fuels including a specific test engine in Ohio’s
Brown County.
"We have our work cut out for us," Tony Logan said citing examples of fighting more
non-traditional partners as well as both being more inclusive and diverse.